When I received my diagnosis, travelling with my diabetes supplies emerged many doubts and questions. So many, that back there I doubted if a person with diabetes would be able to travel. Talking with some friends I could see that it was a common concern.
No, this is NOT TRUE! And a great proof that anyone with diabetes around the world can travel are the IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes meetings (picture on the right was taking on the IDF YLD meeting in Dubai, 2011), that reunites youngsters with diabetes worldwide.
Many times I receive questions regards to supplies transportation, airport security and tips that I could give. So, I’ll share with you some new and old interesting tips based on my experience on travelling. It´s important to highlight that nothing written here substitutes a conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider about how and what you should do.
It would be also great to hear from you experiences, situations and tips about travelling as well if you have any question you would like to do, write a comment or send me an e-mail.
1. While planning your trip, it´s important to plan how you will get all the supplies you need to take. Be sure you’ll have the time to buy what you need, considering that is recommended to have with you the double of the amount you would normally use. Accidents can occur (for example, insulin bottles can break or ruin with low or high temperatures) at unexpected times and you may face some difficulties to buy those medications in another country (each one has specific rules to that).
2. While packing your diabetes supplies, it´s strongly recommended that you put all your supplies in your hand luggage (the one that will go with you at the airplane) and not at the baggage you will dispatch. That because lost luggage, luggage exchange between passengers and many other problems can happen. How to store insulin? The most practical is the Bolsa Frío, in which refrigeration is dismissed, you just have to put it on the water to activate its nano particles and it stays cool for days. Another way is to use a thermal bag.
3. While passing through airport security, have in mind that each country has its own policies and methods. Besides all your supplies, always have with you a letter from your doctor (it´s interesting to have an english version because it´s one of the most common languages in the world) saying why you need to carry those supplies, explaining your condition. Your diabetes identification to use on your wallet (if possible translated to the language spoken where you are going) saying that you have diabetes (include type) and emergency actions (dog tags are interesting to this purpose too!). Police officers may ask you what you are carrying (mainly if you wear an insulin pump/ GCM), be gentle to explain what it is, though most of them are trained to deal with it, it is possible that one thing or another they have doubts. It is an opportunity to also be an educator. If you wear electronic devices and don´t know if it can be damage by the scan, get in touch with the organization to be sure.
4. During the flight, track your blood glucose and do more tests than usual if you feel like you need to. Beware of your feet, stretch every hour (and talk with your doctor about using compression socks). You may need to face jet lag and adapt your shots to a different time zone, remember to talk about it with your doctor and what would be the best way for you to do it!
5. Don’t forget your Glucagen – glucagon hormone – and to teach those travelling with you when and how to use it!
PS: On one of my latest trips, while passing through the airport security with an insulin pump, I experience a new method. First, I took all my personal stuff to pass on the x-ray scanner (here is important to say that if you’re taking water coolers with you it may cause you some trouble because they are liquids and they can be included on the liquids with more than 100ml, those you can’t take inside the airplane), then they make a personal inspection followed by an exam to identify, they say, if you have been using explosive materials. So they pass a kind of paper toil on your pump and/or hands, insert it on a machine and in a few seconds the result is out and they allow you to pass. In some places, they asked to see my boarding pass and made some notes on a notebook, saying that I was using an insulin pump. Airports normally has their policies on their website, you can search for it. This one, for example, is from the Transportation Security Administration on external devices: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/
So, check list:
❑Extra supplies (double amount)
❑Diabetes supplies on your hand luggage
❑Diabetes ID card
❑Discuss with your doctor how to adjust your medication considering the time zone differences
❑Be patient and gentle to deal with questions
❑TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES (EXTRA MEMORY CARDS!) AND HAVE FUN!!!!